So at this moment, instead of human rights groups getting together and calling for a special prosecutor what do they do? Call for a commission. What this call does and it must be said strongly is take the pressure off what is the growing public push for prosecutions and deflects it into a commission. Outrage that could actually lead to prosecutions is now focused away and into a commission.Jeremy Scahill: What if Instead of the Nuremberg Trials There Was Only a Truth Commission?
If we are to stop torture in the future we need to send the clear message that if an official tortures, prosecutions will follow.
Representatives John Conyers and Jerrold Nadler are officially asking Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint an independent Special Prosecutor to investigate the Bush-era US torture system. But, as Politico reports, “Holder is likely to reject that request – his boss, the president, has indicated he doesn’t see the need for such a prosecutor.” The Democratic Leadership, particularly Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Diane Feinstein have pushed for secret, closed-door hearings in the Senate Intelligence Committee. Other Democrats, like Patrick Leahy, advocate establishing a Truth Commission, though that is not gaining any momentum. The fact remains that some powerful Democrats knew that the torture was happening and didn’t make a public peep in opposition.
This week, Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell came out in favor of prosecutions of “the decision-makers and their closest advisors...
This week it is Mother Jones Washington editor David Corn, who comes out in favor of a congressional investigation “that placed a premium on public disclosure” or “an independent commission.” This week it is Mother Jones Washington editor David Corn, who comes out in favor of a congressional investigation “that placed a premium on public disclosure” or “an independent commission.”The bottom line: Anyone who wants the full truth to come out about the Bush-Cheney administration’s use of these interrogation practices cannot count on a special prosecutor.Perhaps the most passionate advocate for the appointment of an independent Special Prosecutor right now is Michael Ratner, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.“To argue that we should not have prosecutions because it won’t bring out all the facts when taken to its logical conclusion would mean never prosecuting any official no matter the seriousness of the crimes,” Ratner told me. “Right now is not the time to be backing off on prosecutions.
Constitutional Law expert Scott Horton says that the problems with a Special Prosecutor Corn lays out are “correct, but he makes the latent assumption that it’s either/or. That’s absurd. Obviously it should be both a commission and one or more prosecutors as crimes are identified.”
Jameel Jaffer, one of the leading ACLU attorneys responsible for getting the torture memos released by the Obama administration agrees with Horton. “I don’t think we should have to choose between a criminal investigation and a congressional inquiry,” Jaffer told me. “A congressional committee could examine the roots of the torture program and recommend legislative reform to prevent gross human rights abuses by future administrations. At the same time, a Justice Department investigation could investigate issues of criminal responsibility. One shouldn’t foreclose the other.” [...]
The bottom line, Ratner argues, is that “prosecutions will bring out facts.” He cites the example of the Nuremberg Tribunals:What if we had had a truth commission and no prosecutions? ...This is not a time to hold back on the demand that is required by law and fact: appoint a special prosecutor.